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Fair offers hope for job seekers

Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Austin Wappes, left, and Geoffrey Eickmann talk with Vector Sales Manager Tatenda Chakanyuka at Thursday’s fair.

An anxious job seeker straightens his tie. Another is busy swiping his finger across a smartphone. And another walks past to high-five someone outside the Walb International Ballroom at IPFW on Thursday.

The three were among at least 600 people seeking to impress 84 employers at the college’s annual job fair for students, alumni and others. Employers represented career fields including engineering, business, education, energy, accounting, health care and technology.

The event was sponsored by Federated Insurance.

Destri Brandon, an IPFW sophomore from Indianapolis, said the sluggish economy makes him go into “attack” mode to search out opportunities.

“Even if I just get a chance to network, that is a plus,” the 20-year-old business major said. “If I’m able to talk to someone, I can make an impression.”

There was a bit of good news Thursday as the Labor Department said the seasonally adjusted number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by 3,000 to 382,000.

But the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the fifth straight week to 377,750, the highest level in nearly three months. While applications were skewed higher two weeks ago by the fallout from Hurricane Isaac, a Labor Department spokesman said there were no special factors involved last week.

Well, we did say a bit of good news, right?

“Businesses clearly remain reluctant to aggressively boost their workforces,” said Jim Baird, chief investment strategist at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development will release August unemployment data today.

IPFW spokeswoman Nicole Wilkins said the job event ended up attracting more companies than expected. It was advertised that there would be at least 75 employers.

“We had Fort Wayne Community Schools here, and they haven’t participated in a while,” she said. “The room was packed. It was definitely a success.”

This month, Lincoln National Corp. cut 37 jobs from its local workforce – about 2 percent of Fort Wayne’s 2,043 employees were hit.

But on Thursday, a Lincoln National booth was seeking to fill 43 positions.

“We’re looking for all areas,” said Danielle Abbott, an annuity manager, who said she could not comment about the layoffs. “I tell people that I didn’t know anything about finance, but Lincoln’s training program taught me everything I needed to know.”

A job like that could be right up Brandon’s alley.

“The (weak) economy just keeps me on my toes,” he said. “I have a Plan B, C and D. All the way up to Z, actually.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.